Local American Indian elder addresses council
by Rebecca Walker
Staff Writer
Jul 15, 2009 | 3706 views |  9 comments | 48 48 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Oxford Mayor Leon Smith listens to Sharon Jackson, an American Indian elder, at the City Council meeting on Tuesday night. Photo: Bill Wilson/The Anniston Star
Oxford Mayor Leon Smith listens to Sharon Jackson, an American Indian elder, at the City Council meeting on Tuesday night. Photo: Bill Wilson/The Anniston Star
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A local group of American Indians turned out to the Oxford City Council meeting Tuesday night to urge the city to preserve the stone mound located atop a hill behind the Oxford Exchange.

According to archaeologists' reports, the mound is man-made. The authors of a University of Alabama report surmise the stone mound, similar to others that dot the local landscape, could be around 1,000 years old. Harry Holstein, Jacksonville State University professor of anthropology and archaeology, says the mound is 1,500 years old and dates to the Woodland era.

Though protests and petitions have taken place in the past few weeks, heavy equipment still sits near the top of the hill. Some of the hill has already been destroyed. Construction crews are harvesting the dirt from the hill as fill for a Sam's Club next door.

"We're putting out an olive leaf," Sharon Jackson, who said she is a Creek elder, said after the meeting. "If they want to talk to us, we want to talk to them."

During the public comments portion of the meeting, Jackson, of Fruithurst, told the council that the group wants to "attempt a resolution to the controversy" surrounding the disputed site. She said she believes a solution can be reached if the city will openly communicate with the group.

She gave each council member a five-point proposal for "re-consecrating" the site and creating historical designation for the mound.

Holstein says it could contain human remains. The UA report drew no conclusions about the purpose of the mound, citing lack of evidence.

One possible purpose, theorized by Mayor Leon Smith and City Project Manager Fred Denney, is that the site was used to send smoke signals, a claim disputed by preservation officials.

UA archaeologists found no evidence of burials at the Oxford site, though excavations led researchers to pottery shards and a piece of hard rock used to make tools, known as chert.

Smith said that the mound is currently not being touched, though it probably will be taken down eventually.

When asked why the city is waiting, the mayor replied, "That's my business."

Denney declined to comment on the current state of the mound.

Councilman Phil Gardner verified that the mound is safe for the time being.

"I don't think they're on the mound," he said. "They're getting dirt from around it, but not on the mound itself."

Gardner said he would like to know more about what is on the hill.

"From everything I hear, there's nothing up there," he said.

At this point, it is doubtful that Jackson's address to the council will change anything, Councilman Steven Waits said. He also said that the mayor is handling the decision-making on the issue. The property containing the hill belongs to the city's Commercial Development Authority, an entity which also awarded the contract for the hill demolition.

"The whole idea was to get this on public record," Jackson said. "That way they can't say there was no correspondence. There's no denying it."

Those protesting the mound's demise have been corresponding with interested parties around the country and world, said Ruth Davis of Weaver.

A woman with family ties to Oxford who lives in Italy recently contacted the group. She said her family is of the Creek tribe, Davis said.

"She told us that could be her ancestors up there," said Davis, referring to the disputed claim that the mound contains human remains.

The group plans to hold another protest Saturday at 10 a.m. in the Kohl's parking lot at the Oxford Exchange.
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Local American Indian elder addresses council by Rebecca Walker
Staff Writer

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